Coupeville plans public survey, meeting for shoreline assessment

The town of Coupeville is taking preliminary steps to protect its shoreline.

The town of Coupeville is taking preliminary steps to protect its shoreline, and the public is invited to participate in the process.

Last week, the town planning department released a public survey as part of a sea level rise vulnerability assessment that has been ongoing since last summer. The assessment is meant to confirm which of the town’s areas and assets are most at-risk from hazards related to rising sea levels and ultimately put the town in a position to apply for grant funding, according to Coupeville Planning Director Donna Keeler.

The public survey is a chance for people who live, work, go to school or own property in Coupeville to express their concerns about sea level rise and share which parts of town they feel should be prioritized moving forward.

Keeler said that preliminary projections put the 2050 sea level anywhere from 3.5 to 6 feet higher than what it is today. She compared the expected increase to the king tides the island saw in December and January.

“What we saw then is what’s going to be normal in 2050,” she said.

Despite major flooding that took place during December’s tidal event, preliminary results of the assessment indicate that shore recession and erosion caused by rising sea levels pose a greater threat to Coupeville’s coastline than flooding. The results also showed that historic structures, sewers and roads are the town’s most vulnerable assets.

The study identifies a shoreline buffer that extends 200 feet inland of the average height of the town coastline’s highest daily tide. Within this buffer, there are 104 structures, 47 of which are historic; the wastewater treatment plant; more than 12,000 feet of roads, including over 4,000 feet of footpaths; nearly 23,000 feet of utility lines; and a number of parks and beach access parcels.

Options for protecting these assets could include retreating from the shoreline, elevating buildings or installing seawalls, Keeler said. Assessing the public’s priorities via the survey will help town officials determine how to proceed.

Front Street property owner Von Summers, who was a part of initial conversations that led to the study, said he and other downtown business owners share concerns about the future and economic vitality of the waterfront district should rising sea levels continue to threaten their properties. Summers’s own building, which houses a cidery tasting room, a shop and three vacation rentals, sustained damage to its substructure from driftwood carried in by flood waters in December.

He said he was thrilled the town decided to pursue this study that would set a benchmark for the current state of the coast and pave the way to future funding opportunities.

“I think it would be another tool in our toolbelt,” he said.

The survey is open now through Feb. 25 and can be found on the town’s website. Coupeville planning officials will hold a virtual public meeting at 6 p.m. next Thursday, Feb. 9 to share more about the draft results, solicit feedback and answer questions about the assessment. Prospective participants can register at

Keeler said the study will be finalized this spring, at which point the town will begin to apply for funds to create an adaptation plan.